Do not put those three things together, at least not at my house. Sure, most folks have phones, and people with the right rig will have a truck that can pull an RV that comes equipped with a toilet; but this isn’t about that. I’m continuing to retire anxieties. The three most recent ones are about my house’s toilet, the truck passed to me by my Dad, and the telephone and internet service delivered to my house. Just like me, though, two of these three may only be semi-retired.
When every contractor contacted says, “I’ve never heard of that happening.” anxieties can creep in. I had a weird toilet. Actually, it wasn’t a weird toilet, but it was doing weird things. The toilet was not very old. In April 2016 I wrote about retiring some anxieties associated with the even older toilet and the septic system. One step was to get a new toilet. It was good to be able to flush again – until it didn’t. As of about a year ago, a few times a week I’d have to use the plunger, ugh, ick, really not that bad but inconvenient at best. I’m glad there isn’t a video of me waddling around with my pants down trying to work the plunger without getting me or the bathroom wet.
That wasn’t the problem. It wasn’t desirable, but the problem was the noise my toilet made. At random times throughout the day and night, it would sound like an old-fashioned coffee percolator. Bloop. Bloop. Bloop. It took me weeks to find the source of the sound because it would usually stop before I got to it. Then, it made the sound while I was sitting on it. That significantly reduced the search.
I was worried about water leaking out, but couldn’t find a puddle, or a drip, or a damp spot on the floor. That’s because the water wasn’t leaking out. Air was leaking in. One time I took off the tank cover and saw bubbles rising from the inlet connection – but nothing dripping out. Maybe it did that all along and I only noticed with #StayHome and #WorkFromHome, but I knew better. The plumbers, however, didn’t know how to fix it, but they knew how to replace it. Besides, as one of them pointed out, the labor charges involved in troubleshooting it would be more than the price of a new toilet. OK, get me on that schedule.
Now, I have a toilet that is quiet – until I flush. Hit that lever and it sounds like a jet engine, a very effective jet engine, for a very short time.
Abstract anxieties are bad enough. An anxiety that’s associated with a necessary and natural act that is as immediate as a toilet seat, that was an anxiety trigger at least once a day.
Two consequences: The bill was about $600 (which almost included a charge for the plumber to wear a mask – but that’s a separate story.) And I don’t feel the urge to visit porta-potties and public restrooms.
Chuck the Truck, 2000 Chevy Silverado, over 180,000 miles, tow package, cap, a few lights that wink on and off at a whim, nothing elegant, a working truck. It is a rugged truck, equipped for a trades contractor, which I am not. But, my Dad gave it to me when he moved from his wife’s ranch after she died. We’re not the best match, but we get along, the truck and me.
About those lights. It’s one thing when the interior lights ignore the switches and buttons. It’s another thing when the light that lights says, “Service Engine Soon.” According to the gauges, oil, water, electrical were all doing fine. The fuel gauge has issues like the lights, sometimes working, sometimes not, sometimes bouncing around in the middle. Service Engine Soon is NOT the big red flashing lights from the two occasions when Chuck broke down; but is the required service necessary or only recommended? No way to tell but take it to the shop and let the mechanic’s computer talk to the truck’s computer. Error Code 1416 or 1419.
That was an obscure enough code that even the mechanic’s computer couldn’t recognize it. We did some research and found that the anxieties weren’t warranted. There’s an air pump in the (California State – where the ranch was) emission control system that needed to be replaced. Whew.
Order the $35 part. Spend a total of ~$300 to get it installed – and the warning light went off! And then came back on.
So, Service Engine Soon has been done but the light isn’t gone. That means another error might not get noticed; but the excuse of having fixed something stands in for worrying about what else could be going wrong. Rather than heighten the anxiety, it passed me through to a period of; “Well, it’s old, and maybe I just drive it until I can get a Jeep, again.” And cover that part of the dashboard with a bit of tape. (Advice remembered from Click and Clack.) And don’t drive too far up mountain roads, which means missing out on some of the better hikes – for now.
The real estate office is closed and not. I am a real estate broker at Coldwell Banker 360 Team on Whidbey Island. We moved offices as Covid hit, so I never quite moved into the new location. Now, we’re open by appointment only, which has necessarily taken some of the spontaneity out of clients dropping by, which has reduced the incentive to work from the office. So, #WorkFromHome.
Well, if I am going to work from home, really work from home, it is time to upgrade the internet connectivity. There’s a long story that means I was one of the first to research and write about true one gig internet service being installed on Whidbey Island. I signed up early, years ago, because I liked how quickly it could upload files, a handy feature for those uploading videos (check out my YouTube channel), or participating in online meetings. Not much of an issue in 2019. This is 2020. Give me the Gig!
So they did. It took about four months to negotiate the installation. The good news was that I still got the early rate – which included getting some of the installation for free. Cool. I’d held off because of price, as well, but evidently I also got the early and much lower rate. I’d barely be paying more for a service that should provide much more.
But, it didn’t; not at the start. For a month my anxiety built because this new vital link meant removing the old proven link. But according to the online speed tests, the new system wasn’t downloading much faster than before. Instead of a potential hundred-fold increase, I got a doubling that wasn’t noticeable. The upload speeds were much higher, but only a fifth of what was advertised. And, the new phone service was so scratchy that folks asked me to switch to my smartphone instead of the house phone.
Sounds bad? It felt that way, especially because it was about my business. A month of trying to resolve the technical issues or retreat to my old service was useless. I was ready to switch to a completely different system, abandoning my old phone number. My plan, call the competitor on Monday morning.
Life in a small-town community. Sunday night I got a call from the co-CEO of the telephone company asking how things were going. He didn’t know. He verbally walked into my frustration. The next day he and his main tech guru came to my house, tested this and that, went through the traditional troubleshooting steps and convinced themselves that their system was working on their side of the equipment, and that my side wasn’t working as it should. Then, the breakthrough.
The tech guru noticed that the new modem/router was placed within inches of my house’s cordless phone. That’s where the installer placed the two units. The radio waves from the two units were scrambling each other’s signals. Then, they decided to test something mentioned by the most helpful Help Desk employee a week or so previous. Maybe the online test was the problem. Software does make mistakes. Sure enough, try a different site, get a better answer.
Piece by piece, my anxieties were removed. I may not be getting the full 1,000 Meg, but last night I had a regular chore involving downloading and uploading big files. I help co-produce a podcast: WritingOnWhidbeyIsland.com. Click to Download, and usually wait for the progress bar to load, then watch it creep along, play online Yahtzee while waiting, then do it again to upload to the other site. Except, both the download and the upload happened so quickly I had to double check that the files were transferred. The system is so quick that the Progress Bar gave up before it loaded because the file had already reached its destination. Whew.
Maybe this working from home thing will work. Gotta clean up that bedroom/office, though.
The new toilet is a great relief. Yes. Play with the straight line however you want. Being able to flush without worry is something easy to ignore; but is easy to celebrate after it was lost for a while. We appreciate most what we’ve lost and regained. Relief!
Chuck is still acting like a truck. It turns out that the truck really likes to be loaded with loads: garden stuff, firewood, etc. Loaded up, the truck’s handling improved. One of the neighbors pointed out that the shocks and springs are so stout that they barely compressed under the load. That’s possibly why it does so terribly on Forest Service roads, that stiff suspension bounces around when there’s nothing to tame it. Still have that warning staring at me.
The computer and the internet seem to be working like the truck, better under load. The phone is better, though not as good as a direct landline. The uploads and downloads are fine, but I haven’t tested it during an online meeting. Maybe I’ll finally unmute. Maybe. My poor Roku sat beside the old router, but now struggles to catch the signal from the other corner of the (fairly small) house.
I write about retiring anxieties because, like with the toilet, it can be easy to forget about life before and after. We humans are great at selective amnesia. So, I chronicle it here. Chronicling it here is one way for me to compile my notes, but it serves another purpose.
The news can be blind. Well-paid commentators lose touch with the struggles people go through. Mine is not the only toilet with troubles, but many can’t afford a $600 plumber’s visit. I couldn’t until recently. How many trucks and cars do you see with a light out, or a dented fender, or a bit of smoke coming out of the tailpipe? The driver would probably like to have that and other things fixed; but that takes money. As for the magic of the internet and telephone service, there are people trying to get through these times who can’t visit some web pages. The idea of uploading or downloading is something to avoid, yet class and office work may require it – and require patience from them and their compatriots.
These issues are common and observable. Layer enough of these issues on someone without the resources to respond to them, and that person can be overwhelmed, over-stressed, and driven to poor health. It doesn’t take much to resolve them, yet too many don’t have even that much.
I’m glad I’m able to at least semi-retire some of these issues. The list continues, and will persist as I work and wait to get the resources that will let me retire them, too.